Spring Pilgrimage means food

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Pilgrimage is time when homeowners polish silver, wash windows, attend to flower arrangements — and dust off their recipe cards.

For tourists, it may be all about the houses and the pageant.

But for many residents it is also a chance to taste some of the season’s delectable goodies.

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As guests are received into the town’s parlors and dining rooms, mouth-watering foods sit hidden away from tourists, waiting to be savored by hostesses during a mid-tour break or at the end of the day.

It is a tradition that runs back to the very beginnings of Spring Pilgrimage.

“My mother fed all of her hostesses,” Ann Lanneau, owner of Fair Oaks said from her kitchen recalling the days when her mother Ann Rose Williams Metcalf received guests at The Parsonage.

In the early days, hostesses volunteered their time to receive guests each spring. As a way of showing their thanks, homeowners invited their hostesses to a luncheon or dinner afterward.

“I have been receiving since I could walk; I remember every weekend,” Elgin owner Ruth Ellen Calhoun said. “And there was always food.”

It was a way of spending time with friends, Calhoun said. And it still is.

And while the life of today’s hostess is certainly more hectic and filled with other duties, one thing remains the same — the food.

Today, homes offer a wide variety of goodies.

Lanneau, like her mother, still cooks a meal for her hostesses each tour day.

Preparing months in advance Lanneau keeps a journal dating back to 1964, detailing the meals that have been hosted at Fair Oaks.

“We always have gumbo, split pea soup or some other soup,” Lanneau said. “People are very fond of the French Market soup.

Since 1984, Calhoun has invited her friends to an afternoon tea at the end of the tour day.

Ham and biscuits, cheese balls, nuts and sweets are favorites at Elgin.

Her sister, Ethel Banta, offers her hostesses at Hope Farm similar fare.

“I always have a sandwich, a dip and a sweet,” Banta said.

“You know your hostesses so well, so you try to cater to their tastes,” Calhoun said. “I try to make it relaxing.”

Across town, Marie Perkins agrees. Perkins makes sure that a variety of delicious foods await her hostesses, including a different kind of cake each tour day at Shield’s Townhouse.

“It’s a surprise thing for our hostesses,” Perkins said.

“It’s the highlight of our day,” Jan Scarborough said Monday morning after a long morning receiving guests.

Tuesday morning, The Banker’s House owner Sis Stowers pulled out a steaming hot artichoke casserole from her oven.

As the delicious aroma drifted into the main part of the house, hostesses began visiting the kitchen to taste a sample.

Stowers says that serving food is an important part of the pilgrimage season.

“Hostesses need it after standing on their feet and constantly talking,” she said. “I like to keep my hostesses very happy”